Passion for change drives push for legal career  

[by Mary Bolling]

Anthea-Cartwright.jpg

Anthea Cartwright. Image: supplied

There were times it felt impossible, but for Indigenous young mum Anthea Cartwright, she wouldn’t let anything stand in the way of her passion for law.

And the determination has paid off this month with Ms Cartwright being admitted as a lawyer in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in Darwin recently.

The proud Kunibidgi woman from Maningrida in North East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, completed her Bachelor of Laws across six years with CQUniversity, while based in Hervey Bay QLD.

The hectic time also saw Ms Cartwright grow her family to five kids, take on a full-time role as an Indigenous teacher aide, and live on the other side of the country from her Top End community.

“There were definitely times it felt impossible and I felt like giving up, but I had that dream from being a young girl, that I want to be a lawyer,” she said.

“I did everything online, all my Zoom sessions with my tutor, all my oral and video assignments online – it was the only way I could have done it.”

Living in Hervey Bay, Ms Cartwright said initially she’d travelled to Maryborough for exams.

“I remember once I took my husband and my newborn with me, then fed the baby just before the three-hour exam, then the baby sat for three hours with Dad in car, then I came out and fed again, and then we drove home,” she said.

“Looking back you have no idea how you did it, but now it’s all worth it!”

“Lecturers like Professor Stephen Colbran, and Wayne Jones, Anna Farmer, Dr Amanda Stoker (now Federal Senator) and Dr Anthony Marinac were so supportive, it was great to have really knowledgeable and wise people around you.”

She also recalls Hervey Bay lawyer and lecturer John Milburn (Acting Magistrate) offering local students a weekly tutorial at his law offices.

“Even though all the study was online, you didn’t feel alone, there was community.”

Ms Cartwright’s interest in law began with her passion for conservation.

“I originally wanted to become a park ranger – and where I was living in the bush outside Darwin, they were doing a lot of mining there,” she said.

“There’s a really vulnerable species in that area, the Red Goshawk, and I spotted one of the birds there and reported it to conservation and land management authorities, and they weren’t really interested.”

“I realised you don’t actually have much of say in protecting wildlife and heritage in a hands-on role, and my Dad said to me maybe a lawyer can make more of a difference.”

Ms Cartwright graduated from CQUniversity in 2018, and hopes to begin an Environmental Science degree once she’s practicing as a lawyer.

Now living back in Darwin with her family, her efforts to get admitted included a six-month internship with North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency in Alice Springs.

Ms Cartwright’s now looking for junior lawyer roles, and her long-term goal is admission into the High Court of Australia.

All her five kids, husband and close family attended her Darwin admission ceremony, and Ms Cartwright said becoming a mum at 21, and her big family, was a vital part of her success.

“When I was studying I was waking up at 3am to do an assignment, then cook a cake for lunchboxes, then run the dog on the beach, it was just go-go-go to keep up, but it gave me energy too,” she said.

“I feel powerful being a mum, and now I’ve achieved what I set out to do, I’ve shown my kids anything is possible.”

CQUniversity Dean of Law Professor Stephen Colbran paid tribute to Ms Cartwright’s persistence.

“We all congratulate Anthea on her achievements - she’s proven she has the passion for law, and brings incredible life experience and determination to the profession as well,” he said.

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